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Docking Day: Soyuz Spacecraft to Ferry New Crew, Space Tourist to ISS Today

Docking Day: Soyuz Spacecraft to Ferry New Crew, Space Tourist to ISS Today
Russian cosmonauts from top Fyodor Yurchikhin, Space tourist U.S. billionaire Charles Simonyi, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov as they wave just before the launch of the Soyuz TMA-10 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Saturday, April 7, 2007.
(Image: © AP Photo Sergey Ponomarev.)

A Russian-builtSoyuz spacecraft carrying two professional cosmonauts and an Americanbillionaire is en route to the International Space Station (ISS) for a Monday afternoon rendezvous.

Ridingaboard the Soyuz TMA-10 vehicle are U.S. entrepreneur CharlesSimonyi -- the world's fifth space tourist -- alongside ISS Expedition 15commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov. The spaceflyers launchedfrom Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome Saturday and are due to dock at thespace station at about 3:12 p.m. EDT (1912 GMT) today.

"Astronautsreported that they feel good after at the end of the first day of the flight,"the Russian Mission Control Center told Russia's Interfax News AgencySunday. "They are adapting to zero gravity conditions. They took a sip of sleepand have taken meals several times."

Kotov iscommanding the two-day Soyuz trek to the ISS, where he and Yurchikhin willrelieve two members of the station's current three-astronaut Expedition 14 teamduring a 13-day crew swap.

Thecosmonauts will replace Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria andflight engineer Mikhail Tyurin, who have lived and worked aboard the orbitallaboratory since September 2006. A third Expedition 14 astronaut, NASAspaceflyer Sunita Williams, will join ranks with the Expedition 15 crew untilher planned return to Earth later this summer.

Lopez-Alegriaand Tyurin are due to return to Earth aboard their own Soyuz TMA-9 spacecrafton April 20 with Simonyi, whose is paying between $20 million to $25 million forhis 13-day space trek under an agreement between Russia's Federal Space Agencyand the Virginia-based firm Space Adventures.

"I amreally looking forward to the flight," Simonyi, 58, wrote in his blog on launchday. He is documenting his spaceflight on his Web site www.charlesinspace.com.

During his 11days aboard the ISS, Simonyi will perform a series of experiments for theHungary Space Organization, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and EuropeanSpace Agency, as well as speak with students on Earth while enjoying hisspaceflight.

"Lookingout the window will be a no-no for awhile unless I will be one of the luckyones who is not susceptible to space motion sickness," Simonyi wrote of the two-daySoyuz flight in his blog just before launch.

The Soyuzflight to the ISS marks the first time Simonyi, Kotov or Yurchikhin have everflown inside the Russian spacecraft, though it is Yurchikhin's second flight tothe ISS. He last launched towards the station aboard NASA's Atlantis orbiterduring the U.S. space agency's STS-112 mission in October 2002.

"Spacestation looks just a bit different," Yurchikhin told SPACE.com beforelaunch.

NASAwill provide live video coverage of the Expedition 15 crew's ISS rendezvous,docking and hatch opening activities on NASA TV beginning at 2:30 p.m. EDT(1830 GMT). Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feed and ISS mission coverage.

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